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March 27, 2003

Dear Colleagues,

Our nation is at war, and I ask you to join me in recognizing those who are making incredible sacrifices to serve their country. As I walked across campus today, breathing the fresh air of springtime and freedom, I thought of my fellow citizens who are facing danger, hardship, and difficult elements.

Our nation is at war and those who tread the desert through sandstorms and sweltering heat are our family, our friends. On Tuesday, one of our staff stopped by my office to say "goodbye." He was noble and courageous and expressed his feeling of responsibility to his nation. He was shipping out on Friday, headed for Baghdad. He is neither the first, nor the last who will leave. We all pray for their safe return.

Our nation is at war and at Old Dominion University each one of us has a personal connection to this part of our history. This fact was brought home to me several times this week. On Monday, I asked a group of students about the war and learned that each one of them had a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child or a close friend who was in the Middle East. For them, the beauty of the spring blossom-filled day was tinged with anxiety and concern. Let us all be mindful these days of the needs of others. They may not tread on desert sands but they walk a difficult road. Let us all try to be particularly kind and understanding to our students.

On Tuesday, I met an officer who told me about growing up during the Vietnam War. His father was in active service and his mother pored daily over lists of casualties and prisoners, hoping against hope that her husband was not among that number. His earliest memories were of his mother trying to make life normal and good for her children while she was consumed by worry. I thought of the spouses of the staff members who are leaving. I hope that their special friends will look out for them. I ask everyone on campus to try to remember that courage is to be admired and supported not only on the front but also at home.

On Wednesday, I met a student from abroad who confided that she felt more lonely than usual. Her family was very far away. She was anxious about her family members and did not have a way to call them. It was, she said, hard to concentrate when she was so worried. I would ask each of you to go out of your way to reassure those among us who come from afar that we do care most sincerely about them.

On Thursday, as I write you, the petals fall soundlessly from the magnolia beside my window. We all know we are living a moment of history which will be analyzed and discussed by historians of the future. There is, with this knowledge, a kind of unreality-as if we were living dual realities: the one we read about and watch on our screens daily and the one we experience as we walk through this spring. Yet, when we think of those who have left and who are leaving, the two realities are fused. May we each press a flower petal between the pages of a favorite book and, as the pages open to it, let us remember the strength, sacrifice, and kindness of others, and let us be inspired ourselves to be strong citizens, capable of acts of courage and caring.

Sincerely yours,
Roseann Runte

This article was posted on: March 27, 2003

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